State College school board members to vote on proposed tax increase

State College Area School directors may need a 3.2 percent increase on property taxes in the next fiscal year to balance the district’s $120 million budget.

That could mean, on average, an $85 increase on taxpayers’ bills.

The school board is scheduled to vote on the proposed tax increase at a meeting tonight. The approval would not necessarily set the tax rate for next, but it would give the board the power to raise taxes up to that percentage by June, when budgets have to be finalized.

Preliminary budgets, like this one, have to be approved in advance of the primary election in the event districts have to get voter approval to raise taxes above the state’s threshold.

State College Area’s threshold is 1.7 percent, and the district is proposing raising taxes another 1.5 percent to help cover increases in the district must contribute to the Public School Employees Retirement System.

The district would not have to get voter approval for the proposed tax increase.

Randy Brown, the district’s business administrator, said officials do not expect the increase will need be as high as 3.2 percent once the district gets more concrete numbers in the co,ing months.

One issue that will factor into the equation will be whether the district sees a lot of retirements.

Administrators are looking to reduce the work force by offering a money incentive to try to get at least 28 employees to take an early retirement. The requirements depend on the employees’ age or service, and Brown estimated the district could save more than $700,000 next year.

But, Brown said, the dollars and cents will be more definitive once the district receives word on exactly how many retirements there will be.

If not enough people sign up for the early retirement, the district could be forced to resort to furloughs, Brown said.

“There need to be some changes at the high school,” Brown said.

School board President Penni Fishbaine said the district has “met the challenge of keeping taxes and expenses as low as possible while maintaining our educational quality” since 2006, when the state tightened the rules of when school boards could raise taxes.

“However, with state mandates like PSERS funding rising at incredible rates and increasing health care costs, school budgeting is becoming more unrealistic and unsustainable,” Fishbaine said.